Addressing Superior Fire Detection


Addressable fire alarm systems have revolutionized the way fire detection takes place. This remarkable technology has also changed the way technicians install and service fire alarm systems and how firefighters attack structural fires. 

“When the fire department arrives at the scene of a burning building equipped with an addressable fire alarm system, they can quickly see where the fire started using a keypad with an English display,” says Steve Wolk, director of sales for Florida State Fire & Security in Davie, Fla. 

Ready, available and accurate information can make a big difference in the survivability of occupants who are trapped in a burning building. It also means less damage to property at the end of the day. “They can get in quicker when they know where the fire has migrated from and put it down much faster than if all they have is a zone number,” Wolk adds. 

There are other ways that addressable technology has impacted the fire protection market. For example, addressable has helped reduce false fire alarms. Where it comes to service, addressable can also reduce on-the-job service time while lessening the number of service technicians required for effective troubleshooting. Considering all the benefits, it is no wonder addressable systems are becoming ubiquitous. 

Analog Addressable Fire Detection Involves Intelligence Gathering

There are two types of addressable systems to choose from: digital and analog. The first addressable systems to be released to the market were digital. These systems merely provided the location of an alarm or supervisory condition. The development of this type of addressable in the late 1980s made a major impact on how fire technicians did their job, but the best was yet to come. 

Analog addressable, the second flavor of addressable technology, offers the same benefit as device identification with the addition of an analog component. This analog portion of a multiplex signal is intended to provide information about the sensor and the environment in which it resides. 

This analog component is made possible by the transmission of gradient-related information that comes directly from one or more sensors contained in a detector. 

Analog addressable technology can provide such things as the relative sensitivity of a smoke sensor inside a detector head. And when there’s a temperature sensor included, the relative temperature of the environment also can be read by the fire alarm panel.

The power of analog addressable fire technology lies in its ability to read and gather environmental intelligence and make it available to the end user through an advanced user interface. This is accomplished by sending data to the central processor where it is then analyzed according to its programming. This enables the alarm control panel to make intelligent decisions based on real-time environmental data. 

This advanced intelligence gives analog addressable technology a special place in the annals of fire protection history. 

Analog Addressable Takes a Bite Out of the False Alarm Problem

Initially, addressable technology made a name for itself largely on the coattails of this industry’s false alarm problem. In the early days when multiplexing emerged in the burglar alarm market, false alarm reduction was the primary selling point of the technology. In like manner, when the multiplex method migrated to fire alarm systems, the same false alarm reduction message was used to sell it to the fire industry, and rightly so. 

Until recently, the only solution that municipalities could use in response to false and unwanted fire alarms was fining the end user. Fines of $300 or more have become common in some jurisdictions as city lawmakers seek ways to reduce the number of false alarms and recoup lost revenue.

Intelligent analog addressable panels, in conjunction with multiple-sensor detection solutions, have made enormous strides in the fight against false alarms, and it’s only going to get better as detection technology continues to advance.

Another sensor that will eventually make its way into the smoke detector head is carbon monoxide (CO). The introduction of a CO sensor into the inner workings of a smoke detector has its roots in the fact that CO is almost always present in a fire. Thus, as a false alarm tool, a CO sensor, combined with other sensor technologies, can greatly increase the panel’s ability to determine the presence of a real fire. 

This, combined with the ability to determine the flow of the fire, enables firefighters to launch a more successful firefighting campaign much earlier in the process than if they had to use human intelligence (HUMINT) to do it all, which puts people at risk. 

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